When it comes to working with data, small business owners encounter two big challenges: limited time and few resources. Despite the number of analytic tools available, some companies lack the people-power and budgets to set up the right systems and workflows. Data experts are few and far between, and few small businesses have the bandwidth or expertise for sophisticated analysis.

Even so, your company can still build a strong data strategy, you just need to work with fewer resources. Instead of thinking big about analytics, focus on the little data — the trends you observe every day. Pick a key set of metrics that fit into your existing workflows.

Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

1. Run a Customer Feedback Survey

No matter what type of business you run, customer service is always important. Make sure no problems exist behind the scenes, that your customers are happy and that they want to come back. There are plenty of moments in your business to collect this vital piece of information. If you're a restaurant owner, for example, add a quick customer experience survey to your patrons' bills. If you're a landscape business owner, you may include a simple feedback survey with your monthly invoices, asking customers to share how they feel about specific parts of your business. Give them a scale of one to 10. Use this little data to set customer service benchmarks.

2. Analyze Changes Over Time

Small business owners must often live in the moment to make the most out of the assets and resources they have on hand. It's easy for long-term perspectives and trends to fall through the cracks, and as a result, small business owners may struggle to see the collective impact of their everyday decisions. However, it is important to track changes to various metrics over time. With your customer feedback score, you can regularly check how your customers think and feel about your business. You can then implement marketing programs to make improvements, plan strategy shifts and track the impact of your efforts over time.

3. Prioritize Action Above Insights

One of the biggest challenges with data is sorting through an overload of information. How do you know whether the insights you're tracking are truly important? The solution here is simple: Put your metrics through the "So what?" test. Every metric you track should be actionable and inform specific steps your business should take. For example, in your feedback survey, ask your customers how they feel about the frequency of your email marketing messages. Use this feedback score to make necessary changes to your marketing plan. Be sure to track only data that can help you figure out where to invest your time and resources.

Data analysis is as much an art as it is a science, but you don't need big data to make a big business impact. Focus on the little data — the subtle details — instead.

Tags: little data big data small business Data and Analytics smb